Ready to hit the ground running

Harry Sullivan
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He may be top dog on the campus faculty, but don't expect to see David Gray spending all his time behind a desk.
"Somebody mentioned to me that I'm an administrator, and I actually, it sort of took me a step back. I said, 'I wouldn't see it like that,'" said the new principal of the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus in Bible Hill. "I'm a roll-your-sleeves-up kind of person. I don't believe that someone can sit in that chair and be detached from everything. I need to be out on the campus, I need to be talking to people. I enjoy teaching. So I will be teaching students. That's why I started doing what I do. I enjoy the interaction with students."

Today is Gray's first official day on the job as the AC's first permanent principal since last year's merger with Dalhousie University.

A native of Truro, and Cornwall in the United Kingdom, Gray first graduated with a degree in marine biology before going on to complete a PhD in zoology at Rhodes University.

He then spent five years as lecturer in marine biology at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa.

In 1997, he was awarded a research fellowship from the University of Hong Kong where he investigated biological rhythms in intertidal gastropod molluscs, and in 1998 Gray returned to Rhodes University to lecture there.

From 1999 until 2004, he worked at the agriculture or "land-based" Hartpury College an associate faculty of the University of West England.

In 2004, he was named principal and dean of the University of Derby Faculty, where he was responsible for 7,000 students, 300 staff and a budget of about $20 million.

From 2008 until his move to Canada, Gray has served as director for the NAFC Marine Centre in the Shetland Islands.

That short bio only touches on Gray's overall academic and professional credentials. But despite the high level and varied experiences that have led him to his current post, Gray maintains his basic level of interest lays primarily rooted in the marine and agricultural fields in which he began.

"And that's basically what I cut my teeth on," Gray responds, when asked if students and staff might ever see him wandering the livestock pens or partaking in any barnyard activities.

"I used to go and do the milking in the morning with the staff," he said, of his early academic days, which he hopes to relive, to a degree, at the AC.

"So it's not just a job, it's a lifestyle. And I'm looking forward to sort of embracing that lifestyle again," he said. "If I am going to lead this campus properly and effectively I need to know what is happening on the site. I need to know what the staff are dealing with on a day-to-day basis and what they do."

Gray sees the challenges facing the agricultural and aquacultural industries as an exciting opportunity for leading change.

He views the recent merger between the former Nova Scotia Agricultural College and Dalhousie University in the same light.

"You know, it's going to be a very interesting and exciting time for both the faculty and the university," he said. "I would say that my experience, having been party to mergers in the past, having come into this institution, I would say that the merger has been managed very well and that the people I've met on campus, both here and also in Halifax at Dal, are all very positive about it."

So far, he has not met anyone who has expressed anything "particularly negative" about the merger, Gray said, adding there is more an air of maintaining the institution's well-grounded and wide-spread reputation as a top-notch research and teaching facility.

"I think everyone can see the benefits moving forward and that it was the right time and the right thing to do," he said. "I think the team are ready to take the next step forward."

Organizations: Hartpury College, Nova Scotia Agricultural College, AC University of the Western Cape University of Hong Kong Rhodes University University of West England.In University of Derby Faculty NAFC Marine Centre Dalhousie University

Geographic location: Truro, United Kingdom, Cape Town Canada Halifax

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